Black History Month is October

Black History Month takes on a special significance this year, as we have heard so much about race in the UK and the USA. I hope a historical perspective will help us all. As I have said in previous posts, I want us to face the truth, however uncomfortable.

What is Black History?

Some people are afraid the teaching of black history will mean rewriting our history. I hope not. I believe the history that is taught is too often focused on white people, usually white men. It ignores the contributions black people have made in the past to our society. It fails to ask how those black people viewed the events around them.  Often, pupils learn the history of slavery and of the British Empire from only one perspective, if at all.

Why does Black History Matter?

Firstly, it is important to get the whole picture, not just the whiteman’s perspective. Secondly, it matters because many black children, and hence black adults, take no interest in history in school or beyond and do not study it if they have a choice, because they see it as irrelevant to them and think it is all about someone else.

What’s wrong with teaching Black History?

One of the reasons to avoid the subject is that it is contentious. Any mention of slavery or the Empire can fan the flames of racial strife. I do not dismiss those fears. However, I also fear that false views of history, propagated outside the classroom, can do more harm. In class, students can learn the facts, examine them, see myths exposed, and consider other people’s views.

Does Black History Month lack anything?

As far as I know, the aim is to teach about black people in Britain. Good! However, I would like schools to teach the history of some of the countries from where many of our ethnic  minorities originate. India, for instance, existed before the British arrived! Of course, teachers have only limited time and have to prioritise what to teach, but I ask them to think about it. In my schooldays, history was almost totally English. The Scots, Welsh and Irish, let alone foreigners, were only mentioned when they caused problems for the English.

Historic Map of Britain

Historic Map of Britain. Is it relevant to Black History?

Do I include Black History in my novels?

In the second of the Highwaypersons trilogy, The King’s Justice, several characters encounter the slave trade in various ways and learn a lot. It is part of the story, but it also makes social comment. One of those encounters is included in the short story, The Slave Owner, in my collection, Geoffrey’s Historical Shorts. I hope readers fins all my books informative as well as exciting reads. Let me know what you think.

Highwaypersons, Book II: The King's Justice